World Football's Most Underappreciated Forwards Right Now
It’s easy to appreciate Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Robin van Persie and Neymar.
Messi is the best footballer in the world, Ronaldo is a goal scoring machine, van Persie carries the entire Arsenal team and Neymar is a modern-day Garrincha.
What about the forwards who aren’t universally appreciated?
Here are the most underappreciated forwards in world football right now.
Papiss Cissé, Newcastle United, Age: 26
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With little to no help, Papiss Cissé kept Freiburg afloat with 22 goals in 32 games during the 2010-11 Bundesliga season.
The second best player on the team that season wasn’t even an outfielder; it was goalkeeper Oliver Baumann.
Cissé’s movement off the ball allows him to get into such advantageous positions.
He gambles by playing off the shoulders of the last defender in a Filippo Inzaghi-esque fashion.
That being said, Cissé also averages the second most free kicks conceded via offsides.
After 150 minutes, Cissé has already tied Fernando Torres, who has played 21 Premier League games, with two league goals.
Cissé’s partnership with Demba Ba could be as prolific as Andy Cole and Peter Beardsley—provided that Ba’s knees don’t buckle.
Germán Denis, Atalanta (on Loan from Udinese), Age: 30
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Antonio Di Natale’s exploits will keep Germán Denis away from Udinese in the foreseeable future.
Denis is having a Totò Schillaci-like season—so epic that you can only think this season is a one-hit wonder.
Will Denis ever score a hat trick and provide an assist against a high quality team like Roma again?
He’s playing as if his career is on the line every game.
Michu, Rayo Vallecano, Age: 25
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It was a masterstroke from José Ramón Sandoval to not only sign Michu but move him into a deep-lying forward position.
Throughout his career, he had played as a centre-midfielder, but this season, he’s been basically playing as a forward.
Even with his 11 goals, he’s still not the most important player at Rayo Vallecano.
That accolade goes to Javi Fuego.
Burak Yılmaz, Trabzonspor, Age: 26
You can brush aside Aleksandrs Čekulajevs’ 46 goals in the Estonian Meistriliiga, but you have to acknowledge Burak Yılmaz’s goal scoring feats for Trabzonspor.
30 goals and eight assists in 32 games this season is a remarkable return for a forward who could move to bigger and better things in the summer
Olivier Giroud, Montpellier, Age: 25
There’s a lot to like about Olivier Giroud: athleticism in winning 85 headers, incisive passing as he’s created 39 shots for his teammates and most importantly he finds the back of the net—16 goals in 24 Ligue 1 games.
Even though it was just a friendly, he showed up and played well against the Germans last night.
Since we’re on the subject of Montpellier, the big clubs should take a look at left-back Henri Bedimo, who is a solid full-back.
Rodrigo Palacio, Genoa, Age: 30
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Rodrigo Palacio only moved to Europe at age 27 and has been making the most of his opportunity.
Not only is he skilful, but he tracks back and is courageous.
Last week against Parma, he failed to score his penalty, and it looked to have cost Genoa the game.
That was until Palacio atoned for his error by scoring a last-ditch equaliser.
He could have moped and began pondering what excuse he was going to use in the press conference, but he kept trying, and it paid off.
Leandro Damião, Internacional, Age: 22
Neymar this, Neymar that.
If it’s not Neymar, it’s Ganso or Lucas.
What about Leandro Damião?
He scored 40 goals last year but was inexplicably cut from Mano Menezes’ Copa América squad.
Damião is lethal in front of goal, and his ability to execute the lambreta dribble gives the world a glimpse of his technique.
He wasn’t a child prodigy because he was playing amateur football several years ago.
In fact, he considered giving up on football in order to support his family.
Luis Muriel, Lecce (on Loan from Udinese), Age: 20
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Alexis, Samir Handanovič, Kwadwo Asamoah, Gökhan İnler, Mauricio Isla, Asamoah Gyan, Sulley Muntari, Pablo Armero and Mehdi Benatia.
Udinese seem to unearth a lot of gems that the bigger clubs don’t.
Instead of paying the big bucks for Damien Comolli, maybe Liverpool should just hire the entire Udinese scouting department.
Add Luis Muriel to the list and make sure you remember his name.
Along with compatriot Juan Guillermo Cuadrado, they’ve been lighting it up for Lecce.
Muriel is a tricky and mazy dribbler who is also a capable passer.
This season, he’s scored six goals and provided six assists in 18 games—excellent efficiency for someone who’s playing his first season in the Serie A for a small club.
Robert Lewandowski, Borussia Dortmund, Age: 23
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Robert Lewandowski only completes 68.8 percent of his passers, which is the worst of all Borussia Dortmund outfielders, but he does have 10 assists this season.
Then you factor in his 21 goals, and you begin to understand why Lucas Barrios is on the outside looking in.
Barrios is no slouch because he scored 40 goals for Colo-Colo during the 2008 calendar year.
John Guidetti, Feyenoord (on Loan from Manchester City), Age: 19
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John Guidetti’s contract was running out and Twente believed they were going to sign him on a Bosman.
But Manchester City somehow persuaded Guidetti to sign a contract extension, perhaps giving him false hope of a future at Manchester City.
They loaned Guidetti out to Feyenoord, and he has been sensational.
It’s something special when a 19-year-old can score 18 goals and provide seven assists in 16 games.
What Manchester City will do is they’ll hold an auction for Guidetti and sell him to the highest bidder.
Fabrizio Miccoli, Palermo, Age: 32
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Antonio Di Natale’s prolific goal scoring has overshadowed what Fabrizio Miccoli brings to Palermo week in and week out.
Miccoli isn’t just a goal scorer but a creator.
He and Emmanuel Adebayor are the only forwards so far to accumulate 10 league goals and assists in one of Europe’s top-five leagues (Premier League, La Liga, Bundesliga, Serie A, Ligue 1).
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Saint-Étienne, Age: 22
I was surprised that Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang wasn’t picked up by Arsène Wenger.
In 1996, AC Milan let go of Patrick Vieira, who they thought was just a lanky squad player.
15 years later, Milan let go off Aubameyang, and the Gabonese forward hasn’t looked back.
Not only was he sensational during the Africa Cup of Nations, he’s also played really well in Ligue 1.
He scored a great hat trick against Lorient a week ago.
Stevan Jovetić, Fiorentina, Age: 22
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Stevan Jovetić went from SiniŠa Mihajlović’s 4-3-3 to Delio Rossi’s 3-5-2.
Jovetić has been shifted from left-forward to a deep-lying forward and now to a centre-forward.
These factors, plus players going in and out of the starting 11 and the speculation surrounding Riccardo Montolivo’s future, have contributed to Jovetić not producing as efficiently as he should.
Two assists from 803 passes isn’t good enough, but he has scored 12 goals in the Serie A.
Bear in mind, he’s only just getting back into the groove after snapping his anterior cruciate ligament.
One wonders how long he’ll stay a Viola.
Dries Mertens, PSV Eindhoven, Age: 24
PSV Eindhoven’s Dries Mertens has been potent this season, scoring 21 goals and providing 21 assists in 35 games.
No, I didn’t mistype and yes, he averages an incredible 1.2 goals scored/created per game.
Just to give you a comparison, Robin van Persie only averages 1.09 goals scored/created per game.
Marco Reus, Borussia Mönchengladbach, Age: 22
If Marco Reus was English, he’d be proclaimed as the saviour of English football, but the Germans just see Reus as another wunderkind.
They already have Mario Götze, Mats Hummels, Mesut Özil, Thomas Müller and Manuel Neuer.
Reus was mercurial as a right winger, but he’s world class as a deep-lying forward.
He went through an eight-game stretch where he scored six goals and provided five assists.
On form, he’s the best Bundesliga player right now—especially with Bastian Schweinsteiger and Mario Götze out injured.
Reus will be moving to Borussia Dortmund in the summer, a club that easily have the best young squad in the world.
Premier League teams should take a look at some of Borussia Mönchengladbach's other players.
Marc-André ter Stegen plays like a seasoned professional, but he's only 19. Dante is a beast of a defender. Juan Arango has great vision. Patrick Herrmann has the potential to become a great player.
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